Nick Westergaard

By Nick Westergaard on February 23, 2015

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Distrupting the Definition of Branding with Jason Baer

jason baer

“I don’t particularly love the term — branding.” This may come as a surprise when you consider the source. Jason Baer has an extensive background working with large organizations on large-scale brand transformations. He has a point, though. While branding isn’t any less important, we have to come up with a better definition. That’s what we set out to do on this episode of the On Brand podcast.

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About Jason Baer

Jason’s passion for partnering with clients in pursuit of bolder, more ambitious definitions of success led him to SYPartners, where he joined in 2013. As a Principal, he combines his experience in strategy, communications, and creative direction to help great leaders and their organizations realize their true potential.

He began his career in a variety of roles at the D. E. Shaw Group, an overachieving global investment and technology development firm. He then spent several years as a Director and two-time winner of the Best Work award at Interbrand, the world’s largest brand consultancy, and most recently built and managed a thriving content strategy business at the simplicity and communications firm Siegel+Gale. Over this time Jason has led transformative engagements for some of the world’s leading organizations, including P&G, Hulu, NASA, Citi, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, SAP, Subaru, Comcast, and American Express.

Episode Highlights

The story behind the Hulu brand. Jason opened the podcast with a fun story about working with the stakeholders at NBC and Fox on creating what became the Hulu brand. “Disruption was everywhere so they decided to disrupt themselves.”

With all of the disruptions today, your brand has to be flexible. But when do you extend your brand and when do you create a new one? Jason shared his approach.

And what about that definition of branding? The old Norse definition defines branding as burning your mark on cattle. This troubling definition does a disservice to the act of branding as it positions it as something you do to people. As a mark you leave. It’s really “engaging your customers in a dialogue,” says Baer. “It’s your fundamental essence — your purpose.”

Ultimately, there shouldn’t be a lot of daylight between your business mission and your brand promise. Branding doesn’t fit well on the org chart because it’s really everyone’s responsibility. From the CEO to employees. This is easier said than done. “Culture is something that’s often outsourced to HR.”

You have to “work with great leaders to affect great change.” That’s where Jason spends most of his time with SYPartners. Working on answering big questions including where are we? Where do we want to be? How do we get there?

What brand has made Jason smile lately? Ironically enough, Jason is a big fan of the minimalist — almost an anti-brand — Muji.

To learn more about Jason Baer and his work, check out the SYPartners website and their apps — Teamworks and Unstuck. You can also follow Jason on Twitter.

As We Wrap Up …

Before we call it wrap, I want to flip the microphone around to our listeners. Recently, Kate Connell shared how much she enjoyed hearing Meghann and I “jam about Iowa brands” on our January Brand Zeitgeist show. Cheers Kate!

Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.

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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!




Nick Westergaard
Email Brand Driven Digital

is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, where he helps build better brands online. He also teaches at the University of Iowa and is host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.


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